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Qumran Revisited: A Reassessment

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  • gregdoudna
    New Qumran book: D. Stacey and G. Doudna, Qumran Revisited:A Reassessment of the Archaeology of the Site and its Texts (BAR International Series 2520; Oxford:
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 6 9:43 PM
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      New Qumran book: D. Stacey and G. Doudna, Qumran Revisited:A
      Reassessment of the Archaeology of the Site and its Texts (BAR
      International Series 2520; Oxford: Archaeopress, 2013).
      David Stacey writes from his experience as an archaeologist who worked
      for ten years on the Netzer excavations at Hasmonean/Herodian Jericho,
      the nearest major site to Qumran. Out of this experience Stacey does not
      interpret Qumran as if Qumran was sui generis, a unique site to be
      interpreted in light of the contents of the texts found in its caves,
      its material remains interpreted as reflections of a separatist sect
      inhabiting the site in an ideological world of its own.
      David Stacey analyzes Qumran from the perspective of economic
      development and industries affecting the site without regard to the
      contents of the texts. Rather than interpret the remains of Qumran in
      terms of reconstructed sectarian practices (activities presumed to have
      included collection and production of the texts themselves), Stacey
      examines Qumran independently of the texts beyond accounting for the
      texts' physical presence. Stacey accounts for the presence of the
      scrolls in Qumran's caves in terms of permanent disposals of texts
      brought to the site for that purpose.
      Of particular interest is Stacey's argument that Qumran was an extension
      of the Hasmonean estate in Jericho. Although there are precursors to
      this idea--notably Pessah Bar-Adon's influential 1981 argument that
      Qumran was part of a Hasmonean program of fortification and exploitation
      of economic resources near the Dead Sea, such that an interpretation of
      Qumran as beginning as a Hasmonean state initiative is now embraced by
      most current studies of Qumran's archaeology (Humbert 1994, Hirschfeld
      2004, Magen and Peleg 2007, Cargill 2009, Mizzi 2009, Taylor 2012)--yet
      Stacey differs in his analysis in comparison to most others who advocate
      a Hasmonean state initiative origin of Qumran. For Stacey sees Hasmonean
      Qumran being further developed by Herod with no fundamental rupture or
      break in its industries and functioning. This is in contrast to several
      of the analyses cited (Humbert, Cargill, Mizzi, Taylor) who suppose
      there was a radical change in occupation of the site in the time of
      Herod. In this line of thinking, a new group-- sectarians--came to
      Qumran late in the 1st century BCE bringing their scrolls with them and
      producing more scrolls at the site, which they continued to do until the
      First Revolt of the 1st century CE. The reason these scholars identify a
      new sect arriving at the site late in the 1st century BCE, and replacing
      the site's former inhabitants, is because they wish to account for the
      presence of the scrolls at the site, and believe this is the way to do
      so: first a Hasmonean period at the site (no connection to the scrolls),
      then replaced by the sect connected with the scrolls. This was not de
      Vaux's scheme (de Vaux had the sect at Qumran from the beginning), and
      abandoned in this scheme is the old idea that a 2nd century BCE Teacher
      of Righteousness of the texts came to Qumran with his little band of
      followers to build the site after he was exiled from Jerusalem. But it
      is a way to keep the traditional model of the sect of the texts and its
      relationship to the site of Qumran intact, in a modified form.
      But why not, a reader who has been following the discussion closely to
      this point might ask, simply identify the people of the scrolls as the
      people operating the site when Qumran was a Hasmonean outpost? Why the
      necessity to suppose two distinct sets of people?
      Such a question seemingly comes from a naive reader unfamiliar with
      Qumran scholarship. For if there is one point upon which scholars have
      been in agreement with almost complete unanimity for as long as anyone
      can remember, it is that the sect of the Qumran texts was opposed to the
      Hasmonean high priests. In prevailing Qumran scholarship it is
      considered simply inconceivable that the people of the texts of Qumran
      could have been favorable to, for example, Hyrcanus II, the high priest
      of the temple in Jerusalem 76-67 and 63-40 BCE.
      My essay in the present volume builds on a paper I was invited to
      deliver at a 2009 conference held in Copenhagen (Doudna 2011). My essay
      shows that the naive reader's question referred to above is actually
      quite astute. My essay challenges the reasons claimed for supposing that
      the Qumran texts were opposed to the Hasmonean high priests. I show that
      nothing in the Qumran Community Rule (S) texts calls for reading those
      texts as opposed to the temple or to the priests who controlled the
      temple. I show that such interpretations of the Qumran S texts are
      unfounded and chimerical, no matter how deeply ingrained such
      interpretations have been in scholarly discourse.
      I argue that, in fact, nothing in the Qumran texts calls for supposing
      the sectarian texts were other than supportive of most Hasmonean high
      priests. Texts which have been interpreted as polemical against all
      Hasmonean rulers and their regimes instead become polemical against one
      ruler's regime from supporters of the previous high priest.
      Condemnations in some texts of a Hasmonean regime become not a rejection
      of all Hasmonean high priests but rather arise out of the authors'
      loyalty to, as they interpreted it, the legitimate Hasmonean high priest
      who had been cast into exile.
      I show that traditional arguments for supposing an adversarial
      relationship between the sect of the Qumran texts and the Hasmonean high
      priests evaporate upon examination: there is no sign in the texts of
      calendar conflict between the sect and the Hasmonean high priests; no
      criticism for combining king and high priest; no notion of rival
      priestly ancestries; no opposition to Alexander Jannaeus, or to John
      Hyrcanus I before him. Contrary to common conceptions, none of these
      notions are in the Qumran texts in any way. Instead of the Qumran texts
      being opposed to the Hasmonean high priests, the sect of the texts was
      the sect of the Hasmonean high priests.
      In the past, archaeological analyses of Qumran which follow the method
      of David Stacey--of interpreting the material remains of the site
      independently of the contents of the texts--have been marginalized on
      the grounds that they "ignore the evidence of the scrolls" (which are
      part of the archaeological realia of the site, it is pointed out).
      Although my essay stands independently, I place it in this volume for
      the purpose of shielding from this line of criticism the work of
      archaeologists who seek to evaluate the material remains of Qumran
      objectively. I intend my essay to open spaces to allow such
      archaeologists' voices to be heard, liberated from the stifling
      constraints of a long-dominant interpretive filter promulgated in the
      name of the ancient Essenes. In fact Stacey's argument that Qumran was
      an extension of Hasmonean Jericho becomes very sensible, given the
      congruence of ruling priests at Hasmonean Jericho and the disposals of
      large numbers of religious texts reflective of those priests at nearby
      Qumran.
      David Stacey and I are each solely responsible for our respective pieces
      in the present volume: Stacey's dealing with archaeological
      interpretation, and mine engaging the texts. Stacey and I have made no
      attempt to harmonize every detail, and that is as it should be. Stacey's
      study and my article, as well as Gideon Avni's analysis of the Qumran
      cemetery, should be read as distinct perspectives, distinct voices,
      offering a significant degree of overlap on relevant points, yet
      retaining autonomy.
      I hope this volume will assist all of us, text scholars and
      archaeologists alike, as well as readers from other disciplines and the
      interested public, in approaching a better understanding of the ancient
      texts of Qumran and the site where these texts were found.
      Greg Doudna
      Bellingham, Washington USA


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